What Is Marijuana Withdrawal
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Opposing to the regular opinion, marijuana can be addictive. People who engage in the use of this drug a lot for an extensive period of time are more at risk to cultivating an addiction to marijuana. This is because extensive use of the drug creates a dependence on it both physically and psychologically. This is so because marijuana’s main active ingredient, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) directly impacts the chemistry of the brain. With time, the brain becomes dependent on the drug to be able to function normally. This is due to the impact the THC gives to the central nervous system. The brain needs the drug to function normally, because some changes in function will be made in the brain. This is to neutralize the effect the drug is having on the brain and also to sustain a delicate balance which is known as homeostasis.
Once there is the dependency on the drug, and it becomes unavailable, the brain and body will make an effort to sustain homeostasis, which most times are not successful. This then leads to withdrawal symptoms, because the body and brain are trying to get used to functioning without the drug.
Usually, withdrawing from marijuana is not life-threatening. The symptoms are not as intense as that of harder drugs like heroin or cocaine. Even though the symptoms of withdrawal from marijuana are not toxic, the user’s risk of relapse can be increased.
Duration and symptoms of withdrawal from marijuana usually differs from person to person. This is because a number of factors come into play when deciding the length and symptoms of the period of withdrawal, this includes:
- Severity of abuse
- Duration of use of the drug
Symptoms Of Withdrawal
As stated above, withdrawal from marijuana can differ from person to person, but there are common symptoms that apply to majority. These symptoms start from few hours after use to a couple of days. The symptoms are usually mild and could cause both psychological and physical discomfort to the user. Users with severe addictions to marijuana and those that have over used the drug for an extensive period may undergo more intense symptoms of withdrawal. The common symptoms include:
- Changes in mood
- Loss of appetite
- Stomach pains
- Intense cravings for marijuana
- Sleep problems
People addicted to other drugs may undergo more severe symptoms of withdrawal, when trying to get sober.
_“If a user uses today’s high-potency marijuana daily, what then happens if they decide to stop? At least 50% of users will suffer symptoms of withdrawal. Sleep pattern will be poor, vomiting or abdominal pain could occur and appetite will decline. A user who uses it daily spoke to me recently saying, ‘if I don’t smoke, I would not be able to sleep or even eat.’ Irritability and anxiety increase. Some users may experience limb spasms or muscle twitching … Symptoms usually clear in less than a week, but the experience is rough. Several intense users start smoking in mid-withdrawal.”
Dr. Grace M. McGorrian, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 2015
DURATION OF WITHDRAWAL
Like stated above, the duration of withdrawal varies from person to person. Symptoms generally last two to three weeks and with time it dissipates.
When put in comparison with other drugs that have lengthy and severe withdrawal time, like alcohol and benzodiazepines, the process of withdrawal from marijuana is a lot easier. However, chronic users of marijuana with strong psychological addiction to the drug may need the help of a treatment facility in order to attain sobriety.
Reducing the use is also an option for users who are troubled about the withdrawal symptoms. This way would involve reduction in the frequency and amount of marijuana used over a period of time. Reducing the use of the drug lets the brain to adjust slowly to lower levels of THC with time, therefore resulting in a less intense withdrawal experience.
An example timeline of withdrawal from marijuana is shown below:
Day 1: During the first day of withdrawing from marijuana, the user could have feelings like insomnia, anxiety and irritability
Day 2-3: This is usually the peak of the symptoms of withdrawal. The cravings would become strong, so it’s common to relapse during this period. Chills, sweating and stomach pains are usually common in this period.
Day 4-14: The symptoms start fading over the next few weeks. Depression is likely to set in as the chemistry of the brain begins to change and gets use to functioning without THC. The cravings for marijuana are likely to still be present.
Day 15+: By now, most if not all symptoms should have gone. Users with severe psychological addictions might be feeling depressed and have anxiety for some months.
Treatment For Marijuana Addiction
Some users may find that the withdrawal symptoms are really uncomfortable. In order to help them cope, doctors at rehabilitation centres may supervise certain medications. Synthetic tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which is the main psychoactive element in marijuana, is usually very successful in improving the withdrawal symptoms of marijuana. It is orally given, but a THC patch could be administered.
However, if you would not be undergoing marijuana detox under supervision of a medical personnel, there are quite a number of home remedies which can be used to ease withdrawal symptoms of marijuana. Anxiety, for example can be reduced using techniques for stress reduction, like different forms of exercises and breathing exercises. Drinking a lot of water can also help to flush out the toxins in the body. Replacing caffeine with herbal tea will also help with sleeping problems.
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